By Cass Rains, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Enid Police Department’s Citizens Police Academy graduated its fifth class last week and is again taking applications for its next session set for February.
Applications for the Feb. 26, 2014, academy are being accepted until Jan. 14, 2014. Applications for the 13-week course are available on the EPD website and can be printed, filled out and mailed or returned to the police station. Mailed applications need to be marked to the attention of the Training Division.
The purpose of the academy is to give residents a behind-the-scenes look at the department and teach them about EPD’s structure and activities. The academies are kept small, about a dozen participants, to allow for more participation and further interaction.
The academy, which is free for Enid residents older than 18, allows residents to ride along with a police officer, fire weapons used by officers and SWAT members and hear from members of each of the department’s divisions. Classes are taught by members of the department, and students also receive training with Tasers and K-9 units, and learn defensive tactics.
The classes, held one night a week for about 21⁄2 hours, all are taught by members of the department. Academies are kept intentionally small to allow further interaction during classes.
“It’s a lot of fun for the officers,” said Chief Brian O’Rourke of the academies. “It’s a lot of fun for the participants.”
“It’s a pretty dynamic and hands-on class,” Capt. Jack Morris said. “Most of it is not simply lecture, they’re taking part in something. We limit the size of the class to keep it more hands-on, and it keeps it a more manageable group.”
Both O’Rourke and Morris said the academy is intended to inform Enid residents about their police department.
“We want to debunk some of the myths of law enforcement,” Morris said. “We want to open a channel of communication between the citizens and the police department, to give them a better understanding of our role.”
Several recent graduates of the academy said they were surprised how open the department was with participants in the academy and were surprised by how much they learned.
“I thought it was great. I was impressed,” Don Wellman said. “Everybody we talked to down there, from the chief down to whoever, they couldn’t have been any more obliging or cordial.
“They couldn’t have treated us any better.”
Wellman said he enjoyed going to the shooting range with members of the department’s SWAT team and using a simulator officers use in shoot/don’t shoot training.
“It was something enlightening,” Wellman said. “It was a different aspect of things.”
Rob Holtzinger, who also graduated last week, called the academy “a great experience.”
“I think what really, really impressed me most was how welcoming the entire department was,” he said, “how transparent they were and wanting to show the general public about their operation, their success and the mistakes they’ve made.”
Holtzinger said he also enjoyed the shoot/don’t shoot simulator, but also found the class focusing on juvenile crimes interesting, as well.
“We learned a lot about what was going on in Enid the average citizen wouldn’t know,” he said. “Anybody that’s interested at all in what the police do and want to know of what’s happening in their city, some of the more unseemlier sides of it, I would definitely recommend it.”
Charlotte Ott graduated from last week’s academy. She signed up for the academy after her husband graduated from the previous one.
“I was very impressed with it,” she said. “They were very, very cooperative and just really open and transparent of their program.”
Ott said she had no idea prior to the academy how much training the officers underwent. She said she also was surprised to learn how much work goes into writing and checking reports.
“It seems like they put an immense number of hours going over reports and making sure every detail is put into that report,” Ott said. “That really impressed me as far as the time they spend getting every detail in.”
Ott said she also enjoyed hearing the personal stories that were shared by the officers who teach the courses.
She said she enrolled in the academy on her husband’s recommendation.
“He really encouraged me to do it. He enjoyed it and learned so much from it,” Ott said. “It really opened our eyes, and we have a much better understanding of how the department works with the community and how they are there to help us.”
Morris said the department has considered dedicating an academy entirely for couples as long as enough applications are received.
Applications can be found online at www.enid.org/police.